Fauci, Jim Jordan spar over pandemic restrictions
A congressional hearing on the pandemic turned personal when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) loudly attacked Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease doctor, about when Americans will be able to stop taking public health precautions like wearing masks and physical distancing.
During multiple rounds of questioning at a House Oversight coronavirus subcommittee hearing Thursday, Jordan pressed Fauci on the idea of herd immunity, and when Americans can expect to go back to normal.
“When do Americans get their freedom back?” Jordan asked. “We had 15 days to slow the spread, turned into a year of lost liberties.”
Fauci tried to explain that the best course of action is to gradually lift restrictions and return to normality “when we get the level of infection in this country low enough.”
Jordan interrupted, pressing Fauci to “give me a number.”
“You’re indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to hospital,” Fauci said, adding that life will return to normal when people get vaccinated.
Jordan later claimed Americans’ First Amendment rights have been “trampled” throughout the past year, because of public health restrictions like mask orders, curfews and capacity limits on businesses.
“We’re not talking about liberties, we’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans,” Fauci said.
Jordan also claimed people have been censored because they dared to disagree with Fauci.
“You’re making this a personal thing, and it isn’t,” Fauci said. “My recommendations are not personal recommendations.”
During a second round of questions, Jordan continued to press Fauci on when he thinks the level of infections will be low enough for people to “move on with their lives.”
Fauci, who has been reluctant to embrace the idea of achieving herd immunity because the number will constantly change, said his “best estimate” would be when new infections drop to about 10,000 a day.
“At that point, and up to that point, there would be a gradual pulling back of some of the restrictions you’re talking about. Particularly when people are vaccinated more and more,” Fauci said. “The more people that get vaccinated in a community, the lower the level will be.”
But Jordan appeared to ignore him, asking how long it will take to get to the low level.
“Are we going to be here two years from now, wearing masks? And I’ll be asking Dr. Fauci the same question?”
“You’re ranting again,” Fauci said.
The U.S. is rapidly approaching a point where the demand for vaccines will slow dramatically, and states will end up with doses sitting on shelves. Outreach to hesitant communities will become more important than ever.
Polls have shown the group most consistently opposed to vaccinations are Republican men.
Last month, Jordan told CNN he was going to wait to be vaccinated until more older people got it first. It’s not clear if he has since gotten a shot.
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the subcommittee chairman, asked a top administration science official whether lawmakers can “lead by example and restore the House to regular order by getting vaccinated.”
“Mr. Chairman, you just said it more eloquently than I could ever say. Let’s get Americans vaccinated, let’s get this done,” David Kessler, the chief science officer for COVID-19 response, said. “And then we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the goal.”